Thursday, 20 October 2011

Commiting the cardinal sins of road racing

This Sunday I was in the Tamworth 10k, running my first race in over 6 months (You might have read my post about how my Pre-race Nerves ). After reading and preaching the do’s and do not’s of road racing, I couldn’t help but cross the line with disappointment. Knowing that I’d committed some of running’s cardinal sins.

The week before

It’s very, very easy to do what I did in the week leading up to the race. Do nothing. Hey, it’s taper time. All of the hard work has been done, I’ve put the training in and now’s the time to relax and not burn myself out before the race. I only managed to put in two runs in the week and the last one was on Tuesday, 5 days before the race. I hadn’t planned on not running again but if anything popped up I just gave up the run I had planned, thinking that it didn’t matter.
There is a lot of advice and research out there for tapering. There has been research saying that a 67% decrease in training is optimal, I’ve seen a study that showed a 90% decrease increased endurance and performance. What is agreed on in a lot of research though, is that the “do-nothing” approach to taper is non-beneficial. I knew this, but ignored it anyway, committing the first cardinal sin, not doing anything during taper.
The day before

An important thing in endurance events is energy; without any, you won’t be able to keep going. This is the basic idea behind the concept of “carbo-loading”. Carbohydrates are a quick releasing energy source that is used during endurance events, so if you take more in, you will have more to use during a race. Simple.
On the day before my race I had lots to do and had very little time to eat. This meant that I had no lunch or dinner and the only thing I ate between 5 o’clock and going to bed was a small tub (like one of those mini ones you get at the cinema, not a small tub that would feed 5) of vanilla ice cream, not the most nutritious of foods. And before this all I’d had was a banana and a piece of orange. Not eating the day before a race limits the energy available and so compromises performance. And so I had committed a second cardinal sin of road racing, not eating the day before.
The night before

There is some debate into the issue of sleep before competition, and for that reason I’m not going to call this a sin, but I got into bed after 12 o’clock the night before and I was up at 5am the next morning. I have seen in some places that performance may not be reduced by one night’s bad sleep and some places that say otherwise. I think it is down to the individual and all I can say is that, even if the lack of sleep didn’t affect my actual performance, it definitely played on my mind. Lack of sleep then may not be a cardinal sin, but it might take you off the road to success.
The race

So far, so bad, but still, I made it to the start line and my race performance was still mostly in my hands. I had warmed up well and lined up close to the front, ready to go. 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – GO! And boy did I go and commit the ultimate of cardinal sins. I began running at a pace much faster than I had planned to run, more than a minute per mile quicker. And there it was, the third, and biggest cardinal sin, going off too fast.
Big finish! Not sure how, but
somehow, I got to the end

I was up with the race leaders for nearly 1km. At the time it felt like I couldn’t slow down but now I think it was more a case that I wouldn’t. I felt great, but that didn’t last. My chest and my stomach started to burn after only 2km and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t even finish. I had to slow right down and get recover a little. I eventually came over the line in 41:38, I had wanted to go under 40 minutes. The race was a good experience though and proves that knowing what to do and not to do in the build-up to and during a race is one thing, but getting them right on the day is another.

I committed three of the cardinal sins of road running. That’s not to say they are the only ones and I’m sure you have committed some of your own. Let us know which ones you have committed and if you suffered for it.

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